Author: Amanda Rivkin

An Open Letter To the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations Regarding the Trump DC Hotel Hanukah party co-hosted with the Embassy of Azerbaijan

To the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations: At a time when internment camps and mass deportations are being discussed in public and political life in our nation and the state is forcefully closing in on civil liberties and the executive threatens our free press and union leaders, the notion of co-hosting a Hanukah party with one of the world’s most authoritarian regimes at a hotel that bears Trump’s name is beyond inappropriate, it is a scandalous threat to the future of all American Jews in this nation. The Jewish community’s true leaders are not looking for a tribal advantage inside the incoming regime in this country but rather to protect at all times their friends, family, neighbors and colleagues from the brutality a state can unleash on its citizens. Many of us are in this country because we fled persecution at two key historical moments. The first is around the Second World War as Hitler and Stalin closed in on the Pale regions of Eastern Europe, threatening Jewish life there. Half of my …

2016: A Year of Monumental, Collective Failure

Do you feel impotent watching fascists on the march? You are not alone! You are so not alone! So in deference to your “shattered dreams” as Dr. King calls a hallmark of our mortal life, I am acknowledging you and your failures + shattered dreams, by acknowledging a few of my own. Two op-eds I couldn’t publish because one took on the largest owner of images in the world + the other arguably the largest owner of human souls, namely the office of the incoming president elect. But the failure is all mine! Surely, this work is inadequate and undeserving of a human audience. The bots can scrutinize it, as can any future interrogators. I leave my original headlines with the assumption that others could have done better, much, much better, because America will be great, so great, again! And at the end, a list of celebrities who have led the charge in normalizing the highly abnormal or flipped and gone full on fascist. By inauguration day/anticipated date of an American Kristallnacht, I will surely …

A Time for Great Patriotism

In the 1980s as the Cold War was in its final intense years, punctuated by START talks and ICBM treaties, KGB defectors appeared on American television to issue warnings to the American people. In stark language, they outlined the KGB’s “active measures” which sought to demoralize a public and lead to the eventual class revolution that would install a Marxist paradise through war, chaos and revolution. In the following decade, the Russian state collapsed and consolidated into the hands of a dozen or so oligarchs, all subservient to the Kremlin and all driven by internal rivalries and mafias while the rest of the country collapsed into a state of disarray. Welcome to the dystopian unreality of this precise moment in American history and so in turn, perhaps human history. In reality, we now know that our precious democratic system looks something more like a kleptocratic oligarchy from where we currently stand. In both red states and blue states, where support for Trump is greatest and weakest, this is the current working consensus. Let us move …

The Sources of Russian Conduct: Russian Reading List

RUSSIAN READING LIST by Amanda Rivkin Note: In light of the election of 2016 and the unprecedented interference in the American electoral process, it became clear that a generation that fought the global war on terror is woefully unfamiliar with what a much earlier generation of American scholars, diplomats and spies would call “the sources of Soviet conduct,” after former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow George F. Kennan’s now infamous article published in Foreign Affairs in 1947. This reading list is an attempt to plug holes, it is by no means comprehensive nor does it claim to be. It is an attempt to provide a brief selection of readings following key themes of the last century of Russian/Soviet history as it is still relevant today given the Russian leader’s training as a KGB spy and deep background in the Russian state and rise in the wake of a period of profound national humiliation of the 1990s. Usual academic caveats, any errors or oversights are mine and mine alone. BACK IN THE USSR: Ideology + Revolution: Leninist-Marxism …

Access to Justice: Art Works Projects at the Chicago Public Library

“Less than one percent of those arrested and held in police custody in Chicago in 2013 had a lawyer present, according to Chicago Police Data (source: CNN, May 5, 2016). What challenges face the Chicago community in providing equal justice to all, and how are advocates addressing issues of equal treatment and rule of law globally?” Panelists: Sheila Bedi, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Northwestern University School of Law Flint Taylor, civil rights attorney, People’s Law Office Amanda Rivkin, photographer, Howard Buffett Fund for Women Journalists, International Women’s Media Foundation Moderator: Leslie Thomas, outgoing Executive Director, Art Works Projects Broadcast: CAN-TV (local Chicago public access)

The Dada Poetry of Donald Trump’s Debate Gibberish

Sunday night was a first in American politics, a presidential debate so tawdry and awful that the BBC correspondent reported hearing people were not allowing their children to watch. I myself avoided watching with family because it brought back memories of adolescence in a time of Lewinsky. But more lurid than anything in the Kenneth Starr report, largely because that document only contained information concerning consensual sexual activities between adults, was audio released Friday that showed Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault in degrading terms. “You grab them by the pussy, when you’re a big star, they let you do it,” Trump said. Confronted with the full horror of the situation his lifetime of misogyny had brought on him, Trump did what Trump does. He spouted Dada poetry comprised of word salad that when taken apart or put together mean absolutely nothing. Sometimes, they only reveal more vulgarity. In any case, Donald Trump’s “locker room talk even though I was mic’d up at work” non-apology must be seen as Dada poetry because the best thing …

Columbia Journalism Review: A photojournalist tells the stories of Chicago police torture victims

Jackie Spinner, a professor at Columbia College who has invited me to speak to her international reporting classes several times and ex-Washington Post correspondent in Baghdad and elsewhere, wrote the first little bit of press about my current oral history and portrait project on victims of Chicago municipal police torture under former Commander Jon Burge. Burge was on active duty with the Chicago Police Department from 1973-1991 and subsequently fired in 1993 after an array of crimes involving the abuse of suspects in custody were exposed on his watch, including but not limited to beatings, burning and electro-torture. Graciously, Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) has ran a couple of the press photographs including one of Marvin Reeves, a man so gentle he was like an uncle when we spoke for nearly two hours in his sister’s Bronzeville apartment. He received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of Chicago for the injustices done to him. From Jackie’s article: Now Rivkin, who grew up in the city, plans to spend the next year photographing these men and …